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A Walk in the Sun
By Glenn Trust
Copyright 2018
All rights reserved

It was such a simple thing, almost nothing really. A small ruffle of wind blew a random strand of silver hair down over his eyes. As it drifted across the lawn, the zephyr’s current set the web of a grass spider vibrating like a guitar string, sparkling with dew in the morning light. An early rising bluebird stretched its wings for the first time that day, sailing over the spider on the breeze, lifted by it to the spreading branch of a pecan tree.

His hand rose, fingers flicking the strand of hair from his lined brow as the breath of air worked its way into his lungs, cool and soft with the fragrance of the morning. He watched the gossamer strands of the dew-coated spider web quiver in the sun, his eyes following the bluebird as it settled on the branch to survey the world of the yard.

They were just simple things, the tiniest of ripples in the fabric of his universe. Perhaps it was the clarity of it all, a moment cut and separated from the fabric of time, but he knew it right then. The signs were clear. The world had changed for him.

It was time, he thought.

“Time for what?” that other part of him asked, the voice that reasoned with him and held him to this place.

“It’s just time,” he said with a smile and stepped from the porch to the grass. “Don’t you feel it?”

Stretching his toes in the wet grass, he smiled again. The sensation was luxurious, cool, tickling the soles of his feet.

“Ahh.” He turned his face up to the sun, fascinated by the contrast between the warmth on his face and the cool wetness surrounding his feet. It was something to remember, he reminded himself.

“You’ll forget. You always forget. You don’t remember any of the good stuff.” The reasoning voice was still there, following him down onto the grass.

“I’ll remember,” he said to himself, sure that he would this time.

“You won’t.” The voice muttered, resigned.

“You still here? Why don’t you stay on the porch? Leave me be.”

“I’m going with you. I always do. You know that.”

Maybe not this time. Maybe not so far.”

“We’ll see.” The voice sounded determined.

“Fine, then. Come along.”

They walked in the quiet morning, he and the voice that would not leave him. The grass turned to hard-packed dirt along the side of the road. One foot on the asphalt and one in the dirt he continued. The sensations continued to amaze him, the textures, the contrast between the smooth hot pavement and the gravelly dirt, the clarity of it all. His heightened sensory perception vibrated, burning with new awareness, conscious of everything in the world all at once.

A child-like smile on his wrinkled face, he looked down, observing his feet curiously. Dusty brown on top, there remained a touch of green staining his soles from walking through the wet grass. Something else to remember, he thought. There was so much to remember today.

“Help me,” he said to the voice.

“Help you what?”

“Remember.”

“You always say that.”

“I mean it this time.”

“I know,” the voice replied, reconciled, a tinge of melancholy painting the words. “All right. I’ll help. I’ll try at least.” Then sounding more positive as if it might be possible,
“Yes. We’ll do the remembering together.”

This time the old man grinned. There was no one there. He was alone with the voice, but he grinned just the same, and the grin made him self-conscious.
What if someone came by? They would think he was crazy, grinning like a madman at nothing. But there wasn’t anyone. He was alone with the voice … his voice.

“That’s great. We’ll remember together. Yes, we haven’t tried that before.” His brow wrinkled in momentary uncertainty. “Have we?”

“No,” the voice replied reassuringly. “We haven’t tried that before. Not in this exact way at least.” Time to change the subject. “So, where are we going?”

“You’re asking me?” The old man spoke to the voice as if to an old friend, and in fact, they were the oldest of friends. “You never ask me. You always tell me what I should do … or shouldn’t do.”

“Well, today I’m asking. Where are we headed?”

“I’m not sure. I think we just walk.” He lifted a weathered hand and pointed. “This way I think.”

“If that’s how you want to do it.” The voice seemed uncertain, but a moment later had considered things and said more firmly, “Yes, that’s best. We’ll just walk and see what happens.”

“Right. See what happens. You feel it, don’t you?” the man asked the voice as he ambled along the side of the road, scuffing his bare feet alternately on the asphalt and then the dirt.

“Feel what?”

“The way things have changed, how it’s all different today. The world … my world, our world … has changed. It’s an important day.”

The voice hesitated, unaccustomed to joining the man in his wanderings, always trying to pull him back. This time the voice relented.
“I feel it. Things have changed.”

“I knew it!” The man was exuberant, saying the words aloud. “I knew it wasn’t just me!”

“I am you, old man.”

This time the voice laughed inside his head until the old man bent over, hands on his knees laughing too. He stayed like that, laughing on the side of the road for a long while. The voice wanted to tell him to stop laughing and start walking, but then the voice decided there was no hurry, not today. Let’s laugh. Laughing is good, another thing to remember. So, the old man kept laughing until tears fell down the sides of his face, and the voice joined him so that they were one in the laughter.

After a while, the laughing abated, and he stood catching his breath, wiping the tears from his eyes with the back of his sleeve. The voice said gently, “We should go on now.”

“Yes,” the man said straightening up, still grinning. “I suppose it’s best. Let’s keep moving.”

They went on in silence now, warmed by the rising sun. The day was perfect, brilliant and blue, bluer than any blue he had ever imagined, punctuated by white puffy clouds, so white they looked starched and hung in place the way they used to hang the wash on the clothesline when he was a boy.

The perfectness of the day filled his chest, swelling him with emotions he had forgotten. He felt young. He wanted to run, and he did.

“Careful, old man,” the voice warned.

“I just want to run a bit.”

“You’re too old to run.”

“What do you call this?” The old man lifted his knees as high and fast as he could.

The voice laughed as he gasped for oxygen. “I call it an old man about to have a heart attack.”

“You’re right.” He stopped, panting for breath. “But it was fun, and …” He lifted a knee and shook his leg around. “Feels good. No pain.”

“Yet,” the voice replied.

“Nope. I don’t think so. Not today,” the man said. “I can do anything I want today. No pain. I might not go very fast, but by God, I can run today if I’ve a mind to.”

“And?”

“And, I think it’s time to walk now.”

“Good idea.”

He took up the march again, keeping an even pace, soaking his soul in this most perfect of days, the most perfect of all the days he could remember. After a time, he stopped and turned his head from side to side, listening. A voice called to him, through the distance.

“Come back! Come back to me! Please come back!”

He turned but saw nothing except trees and grass, wide fields, and streams, and the road disappearing into the horizon behind him.

He cocked his head, recognizing the voice. “That’s …”

“Yes,” the voice confirmed for him. “She doesn’t want you to be on this walk. She wants you to come back.”

He hesitated. “But … how can I? I’ve come so far. I can’t even see her. It’s strange. I’ve come so far;  yet, I still hear her voice. I shouldn’t be able to hear her voice.”

“That’s the way things work today. You can sense things that no one else can. Birds chirping on the other side of the world, and you can hear them if you want. You hear her now, though she is very far away.” In his mind, the voice shrugged. “That’s the way things work today … for you.”

“Oh.” He thought for a moment. “Can I go back, do you think?”

“I don’t think so.” Regret filled the voice. “I think once you came down off the porch and started walking, it was impossible to go back. That’s the way it works on the day when everything changes.”

“Then I suppose we should keep walking,” the man said slowly, with no choice but to shake off a pang of guilt at not returning to his wife.

“Yes, let’s walk,” the voice agreed quickly to get him moving.

And they did … he did. Time passed. It might have been hours or seconds. There was no way to tell. The sun hung motionless in the perfectly blue sky. The sensation of time passing had ceased. Eighty-seven years in a world regulated by the passage of time told him that hours must have elapsed since stepping off the porch, but he could not remember them. He couldn’t remember anything except walking and feeling the sun on his face, the birds chirping, the smell of flowers and grass, and the dirt and asphalt below his feet.

After a while, something happened. He turned his head at the pungent, rich aroma of freshly mowed grass. A boy no more than ten pushed a lawn mower in a yard across the road beside an old frame house. He hadn’t noticed the house or the yard or the boy or the mower until now.

As he watched, the boy stopped and pulled off the ball cap he wore, revealing a shock of hair bleached white by the summer sun. He wiped the sweat from his face with the cap and then settled it back on his head. He noticed the man watching, grinned and waved. Stunned, the man lifted his hand in return.

“That’s … .”

“Yes,” the voice reassured him. “That’s him.”

“But he’s … I mean he …”

“He’s here now.”

He stood watching the boy who returned his gaze unafraid, a gap-toothed grin plastered across his face, a grin he recognized so completely he might have just seen it yesterday. But it wasn’t yesterday.

“My God,” he whispered. “I haven’t seen him … not like that … in almost seventy-five years.” He wiped the back of his hand across his eyes.  He’s …”

“Yes. Dead. Your brother died.”

“More than twenty years ago. He was sixty-two.”

“Yes. What do you want to do?”

“What should I do?”

“I think you are supposed to go talk to him.”

“Really?”

“Go,” the voice urged.

He took a tentative step from the road onto the fresh cut grass. Shuffling his feet through it as he walked, feeling every blade of grass tickle and scrape against his feet, he picked up speed, afraid the boy, his brother, would disappear before he reached him, but he didn’t.

They stood facing each other. The cocksure grin on the young face and green, mocking eyes took him back over seven decades. He shook his head not sure what to say. The boy spoke instead.

“Why you looking at me like that, Mister?”

“Sorry. You … uh … look like someone I knew once.”

“Really? Do I know you?”

He ran his hands through his silver hair and smiled. “No. You don’t know me. You just remind me of someone.”

“Oh.”

Silence engulfed them as if the world waited, holding its breath for something exceptional, extraordinary, stupendous to happen. The boy smiled and nodded at the side of the house.

“You thirsty, Mister?”

His old eyes crinkled and he grinned at the boy. For a moment, he saw something in the young eyes, a glimmer of recognition.

“As a matter of fact, I am.”

“Hah,” he laughed. “My brother always says that … as a matter of fact … hah.”

“He does? Where is he, your brother?”

“Don’t you know?” The boy smiled and turned. “Come on let’s get something to drink.”

He led the way to an old rubber garden hose at the side of the house. When he turned the faucet the water gushed cool, clear and sparkling in the sun. He let it run for a minute and handed it to the old man.

“Here, you go first. Should be cold now.”

He sipped the water from the end of the hose at first, then realizing how thirsty he was, he gulped it, sucking in air with the water, belching loudly as he handed the hose back. The boy laughed and drank then turned off the faucet.

“Thanks for the water. That was good.”

“No problem. Well, I guess I better get back to mowing the yard.” He walked to the mower and leaned over, hand on the pull cord, looking up at the old man. “You gonna stay around. We could talk when I’m finished.”

“I … uh… I don’t, I mean I’m not sure …”

“I think it’s time to move on,” the voice whispered in his head.

“No,” he said to the boy. “It’s time for me to move on.”

“Okay. Maybe I’ll see you again some time.” The boy pulled the cord, and the mower roared to life. An instant later, he wheeled, pushing the growling machine to the far side of the yard, leaving a clean, crisp row in the grass behind.

Walking along the road again, he wanted to ask the voice what it meant. He knew that the voice was him and wouldn't, shouldn’t, couldn’t know any more than he did, but
still, he asked, “What does it mean? Seeing him like that?”

“It’s something to remember.”

“Oh. That’s all?”

“That’s a lot, don’t you think?”

“I suppose so,” the old man mused.

As the timeless day wore on, there were other encounters.

A baseball game in a weed-choked field. He saw his brother again, standing on the old tire that was second base. A boy at bat darker and taller than his brother looked eerily familiar to the old man.   He was about to say that it was like looking in a mirror when he finally understood. He wondered at it and watched the game until the voice urged him on.

They passed, schoolyards in recess, parks, picnics, weddings, birthday gatherings, a lone man walking in the woods whom he recognized as the boy at bat in the baseball game older, but not as old as he would become. At each stop, there were things the voice told him to remember. Faces, names, wife, children, grandchildren, people, music, singing, laughing, weeping.

“Pay attention. Don’t forget anything,” the voice said, desperate now. “Remember it all.”

“I’m trying,” the old man whispered.

Clouds gathered on the horizon. The sun that had remained motionless began to lower. It happened so quickly; it was like watching a time-lapse film of an entire day compressed into seconds.

“Night’s coming on,” he muttered, uncertain about what the coming darkness meant.

“It is.” There was something in the tone of the voice now, deep sadness mixed with foreboding.

They walked towards the darkening horizon where the sun flashed orange and red behind the clouds then sank quickly until there was just a glimmer of light remaining.

“Remember,” the voice said, pleading. “Oh, please remember.”

“I’m trying. I will try. I will …”

Darkness closed around, engulfing the old man and the voice in his head until he could no longer see or be seen, until only the darkness remained and the special day was no more.

“Come back. Please come back!”

The morning sun was rising over the pecan tree now. He had only come out on the porch with his morning coffee half an hour ago. She lifted his hand from the arm of the chair and held it tightly in hers, leaning to him, kissing his gray-stubbled face.

“Come back to me. Don’t you do this,” she commanded. “You stay here with me.”

He sat upright in his chair, breathing softly as if lost in a daydream. She moved to look into his eyes. They had the same soft look that he could make flash when he wanted to, but they were different now. They would not flash again. They had gone to a dark place far from her where she could not reach him. There were no daydreams there, and he could not return to her. They were both alone, separated by the invisible darkness in him.

She moved in front of him on her knees so that he would be forced to look at her, holding his face in her hands. She knew he saw nothing, wandering in a land somewhere between life and death. Brushing her lips over his hand, she wept.